Covid, the WHO director: “Not excluded hypothesis from the laboratory”
“The hypothesis of the leak from the laboratory is not excluded”: said the WHO director, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, speaking of the origin of Covid.
Interviewed by The Corriere della Sera, the WHO director took stock of the situation by talking about the Coronavirus epidemic, vaccines and how to deal with a possible next pandemic.
On the origins of Covid, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “We must do everything we can to better understand the origins of this pandemic. There have been numerous missions to China to better understand the first pandemic cases and recommend further studies, which are urgently needed ”.
“All the hypotheses must continue to be examined – added the WHO director – from the hypothesis of transmission from animals to that of leaving the laboratory, which has not yet been categorically excluded. From the beginning, the WHO has consistently asked for a fully open and transparent scientific process to understand the first days of the pandemic ”.
“It is important to remember that studies on the origins of the virus are questions for science; they are difficult to undertake and take time. But we have seen other factors, including political ones, influence efforts and hinder our ability to make progress and get answers. I commend Italy for what it has done in support of collaborative and science-based studies. Numerous Italian researchers are collaborating with other laboratories in Europe to better understand the first results of the 2019 samples “.
On the vaccination campaign, on the other hand, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus states: “The World Health Organization is calling on the G20 countries to take urgent action to vaccinate the world and to make a commitment to achieve the goals that the WHO has established. The targets are the vaccination of 40% of the population of all countries by the end of 2021 and 70% by the middle of next year. To reach this year’s target, we need two million doses for low and very low income countries now. We invite all countries with excess doses to donate them now ”.
According to the WHO director, in fact, “Rich countries have not done enough to vaccinate the world fairly. There have been some positive developments but clearly they need to do more ”.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is convinced that one way to increase access to doses is to “put booster programs on hold. Instead of vaccinating those who are already vaccinated, we need to vaccinate those at the highest risk if we are to improve our chances of stopping the development of new variants and preventing the continued spread of the pandemic ”.
WHO has already called for a moratorium on recalls, except for people who are immunocompromised, at least until the end of this year to support efforts to supply those countries where many people have not even received their first dose. But many countries are not respecting all this ”.
“We recently met with more than 200 experts on the issue of the use of boosters (recalls) – added the WHO director – There is no consensus among experts on their need. On the other hand, there is currently no conclusive evidence that the effectiveness of the Covid-19 vaccine against severe symptoms and death decreases significantly over time. Vaccines remained effective in preventing serious illness and death ”.
The expert, who says he is “very worried” about the situation in Africa, “given vaccination on the continent which is less than 4%, while in many of the more developed countries the vaccination rates are well above 50%”, says he says convinced that Covid “will stay with us for the foreseeable future and will maintain the potential to continue to evolve”.
On when WHO will declare the end of the pandemic, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus replies: “WHO does not declare a pandemic, the pandemic is simply a characterization of the situation. We are still seeing the global spread of the disease that continues to turn our health, healthcare systems, economies and societies upside down. This is still very much a pandemic ”.
The WHO director then stressed that “the world must be better prepared to prevent and respond to the threat of infectious diseases with pandemic and epidemic potential. Covid-19 showed us that our preparation could have been much better. It is for this reason that WHO has launched a series of new initiatives to better protect the world from future threats ”.
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